Yes, it’s Selection Sunday, but we still have five championship games today. We’ll find out the winners of the Ivy League, A-10, Sun Belt, SEC and AAC all before we have a few moments to collect our breath and get ready for the dumbest reveal of the brackets yet. We’ll get right into it with the two mid majors today.
Ivy League – The Palestra
No. 2 Penn vs No. 1 Harvard – Noon
I love that the Ivy League went to this four team playoff, however today we’re seeing a disadvantage to the No. 1 seed. The Ivy League decided to play the tournament at The Palestra – which sounds like a great idea, because of the history, etc. One slight problem is Penn plays there. Penn is also a pretty good team and typically ends up in the top-4 of the Ivy every year. So now we have the No. 1 seed in Harvard playing a road game because it’s at The Palestra. Now, I don’t know an exact solution here, but something has to change to prevent this happening.
That said, let’s take a look at what’s going on in today’s game. These two teams split the regular season, both winning at home. The last game came on February 24 with Penn winning 74-71 in which AJ Brodeur had a 17/12 game. Keep an eye on who controls the tempo here today. Penn doesn’t play incredibly fast, but they do want to look to run, get the ball up and then go into a secondary break. Harvard on the other hand wants to play incredibly slow. If Penn is able to speed the game up, they are going to win this thing. Neither team is going to crash the offensive glass, so if you can get a couple of extra possessions, it’s even more valuable in a game like this. Another key is going to be the 3-point line. Harvard does play slow, but rank 76th in 3PA/FGA in the country. Penn on the other hand does a great job of running teams off the 3-point line, ranking 37th in defensive 3PA/FGA.
I like Penn to win this game, especially with it The Palestra and Harvard not having Bryce Aiken.
Sun Belt – New Orleans
No. 4 UT-Arlington vs No. 2 Georgia State
UT-Arlington is one of my favorite mid majors in the country and I absolutely love watching Erick Neal and Kevin Hervey play. There’s a chance we could see Hervey as a late 2nd round pick or a summer league all star that gets a call up to the NBA. He’s that talented. Neal on the other hand is your prototypical point guard. He picks his time to attack to score, but is a pass-first guy by nature, hence the 37.6 assist rate, which ranks 12th in the country. That said, Neal has been dominant the last two games in the Sun Belt Tournament. He put up 37 points against Appalachian State and then 18/5/5 against No. 1 Louisiana.
The point guard spot is the matchup you want to watch within the game. I talked about Neal, but Georgia State has D’Marcus Simonds, who is putting up a stat line of 21/6/4.5. In the two games against UT-Arlington he put up 18/5 and 29/5/10. He is going to attack off the bounce. He’s a terrible shooter from deep, just 22% for the year on just 113 attempts. He wants to get the ball, ISO and attack the rim. You have to have someone stay home to protect the rim. In this case it has to be Johnny Hamilton for UT-Arlington, who is 11th in the country in block percentage.
I like UT-Arlington to win here. They have been knocking on this door for so long and it’s only right we finally see Hervey, Neal and Scott Cross in the NCAA Tournament.